Local Government Financing

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:40 pm on 29th June 2010.

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Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee 5:40 pm, 29th June 2010

In the end, the Government grant reflects the amount of deprivation in an area. Clearly, there are deprived people even in affluent areas, but it is about the total amount of deprivation. Certainly other communities have more deprivation and that is why they get more Government funding and they will be harder hit. That is the point that I am making.

Right at the end of the Minister's speech we got a vague mention of Total Place. It is important that it is developed, but it should not be seen as a panacea. Total Place is at the pilot stage; it has produced some very interesting results and ideas about how public money can be spent better across Departments. The Government have to allow local authorities to take the lead on these matters. The DCLG must get a grip of its colleagues in other Departments and let go of the controls that exist, but that will not deliver overnight savings of 25%. We will not achieve 25% or 30% cuts by efficiency savings; there will be real damage to public services. We must recognise that, and the Government must explain and justify the cuts.

The Secretary of State says that his three priorities are localism, localism and localism, but let us take what the Minister said about refuse collection and people in town halls dictating things. Where is the dictation? The Secretary of State in his new spirit of localism is telling every council in this country how it must empty the bins. It is absolute nonsense. How can we have any trust or faith in a Government who talk about localism and setting local councils free when that is one of their first policy announcements?

It is clear that the Budget package was regressive. That has been shown by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. There was an interesting report in the newspapers at the weekend of an investigation into the totality of the Government cuts by Tim Horton and Howard Reed on behalf of the Fabian society. It showed that when one takes not merely the tax changes but the housing benefit changes and the spending cuts, including local government spending cuts, the poorest 10% of our community will have their spending power cut by six times as much as the richest 10%. That is the impact of the Government's policy. The Budget was not fair and the cuts that have been made so far to local council budgets are not fair. The deficit has truly been cut on the backs of the poorest in our communities.

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